Recently, after presenting at Grand Rounds about exercise, it became clear that there are many physicians who appreciate the value of exercise and recommend it to their patients. It is impressive- the number of very busy physicians who are fitting exercise into their own lives, on a daily basis. We see what many people don’t see, the variety of ways we can get older and the consequences of our lifestyle choices. It is with this wisdom that they are living what they preach- “Exercise- however you can fit it in.” Physicians who regularly see patients aging, prioritize exercise.
Exercise and physical fitness is one thing that has the greatest impact on all areas of health and cannot be replaced by pills or medical procedures. Yet, according to CDC, only 20 % of adults get “enough” aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise. This amounts to 150 total minutes of moderate intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) divided throughout the week plus 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activities per week.
Many people state that they have no time (such as “small children and childcare concerns” or “long work day” or “care-taking/traveling sports duties” or “homework”) and/or that they have a “very sedentary job.” They sit for much of the day and it’s hard to find the chunk of time to prepare for exercise (clothing, determine appropriate and effective exercise plan for the day), work out, and then deal with the sweat (shower, change clothes, makeup/hair), never mind the time to get to and from the gym if that’s the exercise zone. It is easy to get discouraged.
However, the great news is that 15 minutes a day of walking UNIVERSALLY improved health in a study of over 400,000 male and female adults of all ages despite other lifestyle choices. The study demonstrated that a minimum of 15 minutes of walking a day, decreased all cause deaths by 14% and extended lifespan by 3 years compared to people who were sedentary. Every additional 15 minutes daily decreased death from any cause another 4% and from cancer another 1%. In fact, the researchers noted that 1 in 9 cancer deaths may be avoided with that 15 minute walk. Maybe 15 minutes of walking daily is possible for an added 3 years of life or a chance to avoid a death from cancer.
And about that sedentary job, many people would choose to be more active at their otherwise sedentary job if given a choice. Sometimes, we might not recognize some of the options. See if you can get up from your chair at regular intervals or consider moving the printer or trash farther from your desk so you have to get up for access. Take the long way to the restroom or the stairs. Many people appreciate the reminders and step tracking from various fitness trackers.
What helps me? It is the stand up desk that I am a fan of. My stand up desk keeps me moving more throughout the day. Treadmill desks (cons: higher risk of serious injury and difficult to use a keyboard or write due to the movement) and cycling desks (cons: non-weight-bearing) are also available but are more expensive, take up more space and often go unused. It is the stand up desk that I am a fan of. And when colleagues see my at my stand up desk, they often end up getting one and using it too.
Find ways to incorporate that 15 minute walk every day. See if you can set up your sedentary job to be less sedentary. Please share your methods of increasing your physical fitness even when you have a sedentary job.